Cold temps don’t chill UPtoberfest
ESCANABA — Cold temperatures over the weekend weren’t enough to keep about 1,000 people from attending the 14th annual UPtoberfest. The event, held in support of the United Way of Delta County (UWDC), took place in Ludington Park Saturday.
“It might be a little bit chilly outside, but it’s going to be warm under the tent,” Ben Harris — president of Bay de Noc Brewers, the club that organizes the event — said.
As has been the case in previous years, an estimated $10,000 was raised in support of the UWDC through UPtoberfest in 2019.
“(That) makes it our largest fundraiser outside of the campaign,” UWDC Executive Director Julie Mallard said.
Mallard thanked Bay de Noc Brewers and other people who were a part of UPtoberfest this year for their help.
“Everyone involved with this event is so passionate about it,” she said.
In addition to the money it raises for the UWDC, UPtoberfest has supported other causes in the area recently. For 2019, the event’s secondary beneficiary was Camp Harstad, a day camp for children with disabilities.
“We’ve also been donating to the city for improvements to the soccer field area, which is where we have the event,” Harris said.
UPtoberfest moved to this area, located near the park’s bandshell, in 2018.
“We love the new location,” Harris said, noting it offers better protection from the wind and elements than the event’s previous locations did.
While no major changes were made to UPtoberfest for 2019, some breweries and wineries were represented at the event for the first time this year. Among these newcomers was The Mitten Brewing Co. of Grand Rapids.
Sales Representative Robert Wanhatalo said he has close ties to the U.P.
“I’m originally from the Keweenaw,” he said.
Wanhatalo was glad the brewery he works for had a presence at UPtoberfest this year.
“I’m really excited about it,” he said.
The Mitten Brewing Co. brought a number of beers to the event.
“I’ve got our ‘Label Up,’ which is a maple pecan brown ale,” Wanhatalo said.
Also making its first appearance at UPtoberfest in 2019 was End of the Road Winery of Germfask. Co-owner and winemaker Jim Barker said Bay de Noc Brewers got in touch with the business to see if it would be interested in attending the event.
“They contacted us, and we had heard that this is a really great event to be at,” he said.
Barker said he was happy to have a presence at UPtoberfest and to get his relatively young winery’s name out to local beer and wine enthusiasts.
“This is our fourth year being in business,” he said.
End of the Road Winery served many different white, red and fruit wines at UPtoberfest. Among these, Barker pointed out “Some Like It Hot.”
“This is an apple-jalapeno wine,” he said.
Many of the other vendors at UPtoberfest this year had a long history of attending the event. This included Keweenaw Brewing Company of Houghton, which has been at UPtoberfest for the event’s entire 14-year history.
“However long it’s been going, we’ve been here,” Operations Manager Erin Aubin said.
According to Aubin, Keweenaw Brewing Company has kept coming to UPtoberfest to support the U.P.’s craft beer scene and to connect with representatives of other breweries in the area.
“The whole U.P. is our home,” she said.
Of the beers Keweenaw Brewing Company had on tap Saturday, Aubin said a highlight was “Early Autumn Ale.”
“It is only sold in the autumn time, so we always bring it to this festival,” she said.
Ore Dock Brewing Company, based in Marquette, has also attended UPtoberfest for years.
“This’ll be our sixth year,” Brewery Sales Advocate Blayne Sheppard said.
As is the case for Keweenaw Brewing Company, Sheppard said Ore Dock Brewing Company attends festivals across the U.P.
“This is one of the longest-running festivals in the U.P., and we’re happy to … keep coming down and supporting the Escanaba area,” he said.
Among the beers served by Ore Dock Brewing Company at UPtoberfest this Saturday was “Six Pointer Munich Dunkel.” Sheppard said the name of this beer is not a reference to deer hunting — the beer is a collaboration with Stormy Kromer, a company known for its six-panel caps.
“They got to be known as ‘six-pointers,'” he said of the railroad workers who once wore these caps.
Free food and entertainment — an UPtoberfest tradition — was once again offered to event attendees this year. Escanaba-based band ToHuBoHu played live music during the festival, and local restaurant Bobaloon’s Cafe provided hors d’oeurves.
“We’ve got some spit (roasts) — spit-roasted pig, spit-roasted lamb,” Bobaloon’s owner Mark Ammel said.
Bobaloon’s also served brisket, brats, rotisserie chicken, cheeses, vegetables and pretzel bites at UPtoberfest.
In addition to owning Bobaloon’s, Ammel said he is a member of Bay de Noc Brewers.
“As a member of the (brewers’) club and a member of this community … I like to spend my time doing things that I think help make this community a better place to live,” he said.
UPtoberfest attendee Andrew Bunch said he enjoys attending the event each year.
“It’s my Christmas, is what I tell people,” he said.
Christopher Loftus, who attended UPtoberfest for his third time Saturday, said the event is a good value for the price of admission.
“They always have everything you’d ever want here,” he said.